Africa at 50: Whose epoch is it now?
When one talks about Africa as a collective, for various reasons, the mind focuses on people like Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, Muammar Gadaffi, Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela among others.
Unfortunately, these generational leaders do not “belong” to this age: they belong to the earlier political liberation era. They fought and won Africa’s Independence and managed to project a continent and a citizenry that were ready to die rather than to live but remain in colonial shackles.
And the questions that now beg answers 50 years after the formation of the African Union are: Who are the leaders of today? What do they stand for? What are the generational ideas of our time? What are the epochal philosophies of our leaders?
An epoch is defined as a particular period of history, especially one considered remarkable or noteworthy.
Is this Koffi Annan’s generation, or Yoweri Museveni’s or Ian Khama’s or Paul Kagame’s, or Jacob Zuma’s or Thabo Mbeki’s or Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s or Robert Mugabe’s or even Raila Odinga’s? Is it the Mo Ibrahim generation? Or is it the Barack Obama generation?
The tragedy in these questions is that simply, no one else in the bracket is worth remarking on as autochthonous of a revolutionary new Africa.
Perhaps the exception is Robert Mugabe, who is leading a revolutionary thrust to complete the Independence agenda by adding economic flesh to the political dimension, with his steadfast thrust for blacks in Zimbabwe to own land, mines and businesses that were previously a preserve of foreign minorities.
Mugabe has received a rousing welcome in many an African capital he has visited because of his devotion to complete Independence and not the window dressing of having our own flags and national anthems.
Mugabe has been a vocal critic of Western hegemony and abuse of super power by some countries to topple governments and to create client states that serve non-indigenous interests. Mugabe has been calling for the reform of the United Nations and such bodies as the World Bank and the IMF.
Thabo Mbeki, a critical thinker and eco-political philosopher, is an advocate for “African solutions to African problems” and the growth and recognition of African institutions.
He dreams of an African Renaissance.
Mbeki has been a statesman and has mediated in peace and conflict resolution processes across Africa.
The Economist has described Mbeki as having been at his most creative in trying to set up permanent institutions to serve Africa – most notably the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) and the African Union (AU).
Nepad is both a vision and a policy framework for Africa in the 21st century. NEPAD is a radically new intervention, spearheaded by African leaders, to address critical challenges facing the continent: poverty, development and Africa's marginalisation internationally.
Nepad, on its website, says it “provides unique opportunities for African countries to take full control of their development agenda, to work more closely together, and to cooperate more effectively with international partners”.
It manages a number of programmes and projects covering six thematic areas, which are agriculture and food security, climate change and national resource management, regional integration and infrastructure, human development, economic and corporate governance, and cross-cutting issues that include gender, capacity development and ICT.
Yet, since its launch in 2003, Nepad has not been much of a game-changer and the jury is still out on that one.
Even then, no one can doubt Mbeki’s sincerity on the issues that he has spent so much time tackling.
Now, who would one possibly mention among the leadership of today?
Not many people in Africa would recognise mega rich Senegalese son Mo Ibrahim, who in fact, is also promoting sound African leadership and democracy.
Interestingly there have been years that he has not found any one leader for his prize!
What is Koffi Annan’s claim to fame apart from having been Secretary-General of the United Nations, but under whose watch the world turned a corner for the much nastier, beginning with the invasion of Iraq and an escalation in Western intervention in Africa?
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is not a Margaret Thatcher. Nor is Malawi’s Joyce Banda, another female African Head of State.
One temptation would be to mention Barack Obama as one of the Africans of our time.
Yet, apart from him being of Kenyan parentage, has he inspired any African through any process? The answer is no, not least because he is American first and foremost in interest and outlook.
And most unfortunately, he happens to be the first American President to actually and brazenly invade Africa when he played a key role in the murder of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.
Under Obama, the US has made Africa much more a playing field for proxy wars and carnage in the name of fighting terrorism.
Former US Congresswoman, African-American Cynthia McKinney once told this writer that “Robin Cook, former Foreign Secretary for the UK told us that al-Qaeda is nothing more than the rolodex of the CIA … US national security whistleblowers have told us that the ‘enemy’ doesn't exist. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted before Congress that the US created al-Qaeda. These notable public pronouncements are readily available on the internet”.
The US Africa Command, a military head for the region, is increasingly making Africa unsafe, and militarised. The US is spreading its military tentacles everywhere on the continent in an unabashed form of imperialism.
In all this comes the increasing presence of the Chinese whose trade with and influence in Africa has grown exponentially over the last decade. The West is unhappy and would want to fight back and reclaim lost ground – economically and geopolitically.
Now the question is back again: East or West, which way is best? The answer is that Africa must be facing forward.
The reason is simple: it is home to the best and the biggest reserves of natural wealth and resources, including human.
Yet the continent might be taken back to being the grass that is trampled upon when elephants fight, fight for the turf on which grass must claim!
Democracy, good governance, industrialisation and resource control are some of the major issues that the present and succeeding generations of African leaders must concern themselves most with.
Yet the most disturbing aspect is that for all their goodness, apparently, these issues are mainly being fostered from outside, principally from the West.
For, and through them, Africa has been made to accept new heroes and champions.
Revolutions have to be brewed and given colour. Right now they are being brewed for us in the West and in this context personages like Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe and Raila Odinga of Kenya easily spring to mind.
Only that these pseudo-heroes are as transient as they lack grounding to the African historical liberation continuum.
So will, in the next 50 years, real African heroes arise?